I have some ambivalence about An Evil Mind. Suffice it to say that the title accurately portrays a serial killerís twisted cat-and-mouse game with
the LAPDís Robert Hunter. A freak accident outside a diner in Wyoming reveals the shocking cargo in a patronís trunk: potential evidence of a serial killer. Taken to Quantico for an in-depth interview, the supremely self-disciplined prisoner refuses to talk until finally announcing that he will only speak with Robert Hunter.
Preparing to leave Los Angeles for a much-needed vacation, Hunter is abruptly summoned to his bossís office, there to be greeted by Adrian Kennedy, head of the FBIís National Center for Analysis of Violent Crimes. Kennedy is accompanied by Special Agent Courtney Taylor to assist Hunter should he agree to meet with the man in custody, serving as a temporary agent for the FBI. Once Hunter is shown the image of the suspect, he is compelled to agree. The stage is set for the unfolding drama: a serial killer interviewed exclusively by Hunter and Agent Taylor, the pair a captive audience in a series of interviews meant to bring closure to a long list of missing persons.
The psychological aspect of the novel runs deeper that the usual investigation by specialized agents, a former relationship between Hunter and the prisoner, Lucien Folter, that ratchets up the tension as Folter describes a string of murders, some of which take an emotional toll on Hunter that he has not anticipated. (Itís a bit like the scenes of Hannibal Lecter as he recounts his murderous deeds to the FBI agent of his choice. This gleeful killer is not only brilliant, but has a finely-tuned physical presence that exudes power- and danger should he be unshackled.) Occasionally the story shifts in time, the murders related through Folterís perspective, from the first seminal killing to a growing sophistication in the art of torture: ďOnce that trigger goes off in your head youíre doomed.Ē
The novel is essentially a battle of wills between two highly disciplined individuals,
each with a different agenda. Folter seeks to shock, Hunter to locate the bodies of the manís many victims. Folter has refined his skills and physical prowess with years of practice; Hunter heads L.A.ís Ultra Violent Crimes Unit and
is writing the definitive book on criminal profiling. Taylor serves as a counterweight to the flashes of tension between the men, frequently baited by Folter but supported by Hunter as they patiently work to retrieve information from their untrustworthy source.
I like my thrillers hardcore, but sometimes the extremes described in An Evil Mind
are more disturbing than I expected. The plot is classic good guys versus bad, but the detail and brutality of the crimes are unusually graphic. This thriller deserves a Triple-X rating, an exercise in extreme depravity and sadism even when the good guys are ultimately victorious. Makes you want to take a shower.